Thursday, July 31, 2014

NIGERIA: Anambra Seals Off Hospital Over Ebola Scare


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The Anambra State Commissioner for Health, Josephat Akabuike, announced yesterday that a hospital had been sealed off and its workers and patients quarantined due to Ebola disease scare.

Briefing journalists in Awka, Akabuike said the measure followed information received by the government that a man whose body was brought back from Liberia at the weekend, might have died of the killer disease.
He said that information available to the government indicated that the body was brought back from Liberia through Lagos and deposited in the mortuary at Nkwelle-Ezenaka in Oyi Local Government of the state.
“Part of the briefing is to tell you what we are doing to make sure we don’t allow the deadly virus to come into the state.
“What actually called for this is that we have a report that a corpse was brought through Lagos and the deseased was said to have been taken from Liberia where of course you know there are cases of the disease.
“The corpse was said to have been brought to Nigeria and deposited somewhere in Nkwelle-Ezunaka and the ministry was alerted and that is why we are taking all these measures.”
The commissioner said that Governor Willie Obiano had already directed the Police Command in the state to cordon off the place until the necessary tests were carried out.
He further said that Federal Government had also sent medical experts from the Federal Ministry of Health, Abuja, to Anambra to carry out the test at the hospital premises.
The outbreak of the haemorrhagic fever, for which there is no known cure, began in the forests of remote eastern Guinea in February, but Sierra Leone now has the highest number of cases.
Atiku Joins Ebola Awareness Campaign
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has stepped up awareness campaign on the danger of the deadly Ebola virus.
The foremost politician, who was vice president to President Olusegun Obasanjo between 1999 and 2007, also urged Nigerians to spread the messages of hope and work towards the unity of the country.
Using his Twitter handle (@atiku) and Facebook page (@Atiku Abubakar), Atiku posted links with vital information on the Ebola virus and how to protect oneself and family against the virus, stressing that the disease was preventable if everyone decided to be vigilant.
According to his Facebook posting on Wednesday, “The bad news: Ebola, one of the deadliest diseases in the world, is in Nigeria. The good news: it is preventable.”
On his Twitter handle, @atiku, the All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain, tweeted, “In these difficult times, we must all be messengers of hope. We must unite our country.”
59 Contacts With Victim Not Infected – Lagos
Lagos State Government has said there was no fresh case of the dreaded Ebola virus disease in the state or any part of the country.
The Special Adviser to the Governor on Public Health, Dr Yewande Adeshina, who stated this yesterday in Lagos, added that none of the persons said to have come in contact with the late Liberian victim of the Ebola virus disease, Patrick Sawyerr, has manifested unusual body temperature or any other symptom of the dreaded virus.
She explained that all the 59 persons who were in close contact with the deceased Liberian in Nigeria were hale and hearty and had not exhibited any unusual symptoms while emphasising that that there had been no case of the dreaded disease from the country’s borders.
Also, the Chief Medical Director (CMD) of Lagos University Teaching Hospital(LUTH), Professor Akin Osibogun, has said that contrary to reports that one of the contacts of late Sawyer, had started showing symptoms of the disease, none of the specimens of the contacts sent to them tested positive to the virus.
He said: “Since the over 20 specimens have been sent to LUTH, none of them have tested
positive to the virus,” adding that the First Consultants Hospital should be commended for having such high index of suspicion and immediately alerting the federal and state hospitals.
2 contacts with Ebola victim, hospital officials quarantined – FG
But, the federal government yesterday disclosed that about 69 primary contacts of the 40 –year-old Liberian/American Ebola virus victim, were under surveillance while two were under quarantine.
Minster of Health, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu, gave the disclosure at a joint press briefing with the Minister of Information, Labaran Maku yesterday in Abuja.
Chukwu said that “the members of staff of the hospital who admitted the man, those with him in the plane and other secondary contacts are being quarantined for the three weeks incubation period of the virus, after which they will be discharged if certified free”.
“The federal government has the primary responsibility in disease control. About 69 primary contacts of the man are under surveillance and two are under quarantine,” he said. He added that the government was still looking for the passengers and implored those with useful information about them to provide such.
The minister said that contrary to insinuations that the airline carrying the man was not cooperating in the search of the other passengers in the airplane, that the government was working in collaboration with the airline and had already received the passengers manifest from the airline.
“We are pushing all frontiers of communication in as much as this virus is concerned. We are sparing no effort.”
Chukwu said that the government was collaborating with the transport companies that were plying across the West Coast, the telecoms, and the state governments in order to disseminate the necessary information and prevention mechanism.
The federal government said it was doing all that was possible to contain Ebola Virus spread, while restricting it to the singular case of the Liberian/American who died after entering the country.
He said: “Following the World Organisation Protocol (WHO) on the Ebola, the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control and the Lagos State government with permission from the Liberian government, the corpse of the Ebola victim was cremated after it was decontaminated.”
He added that the ashes were expected to be sent to the family.
Also in his remarks, Maku said that Nigerians should not be in unnecessary panic over the virus as it had not entered the country while assuring government’s commitment towards preventing it.
“Ebola and other diseases have similar symptoms. We must be very careful of how we report it. It is not every fever that is Ebola; we don’t want to create unnecessary panic. Fear and not the virus itself can kill people,” he said.
Meanwhile, Lagos State commissioner for information, Mr. Lateef Ibirogba, has advised the citizenry to be wary of the activities of fraudsters who were making spurious claims about their ability to provide cure for the Ebola Virus Disease.
He urged them to always contact health providers to report unusual feelings noticed while cautioning against sending panicky text messages round about the Ebola Disease that could heighten tension and create anxiety.
Ibirogba called on those who wanted to make cheap money from the case to desist from their strange claims of cure for the disease lest they run foul of the law, as only medical solutions are known to be appropriate for the disease.
He reminded residents of the state to contact health authorities in case anyone with observed symptoms of the Ebola disease was noticed.
Ibirogba also counselled residents to observe the highest level of personal environmental hygiene, urging them to visit hospitals or Primary Health Centres nearest to them to report strange feelings noticed.
Health officials screen passengers for Ebola virus at airports
The health officers at the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA), Lagos and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, have begun screening of passengers arriving from foreign countries for symptoms of Ebola, after a traveller from Liberia died of the contagious disease in Lagos.
Speaking in Abuja, yesterday, the director, port services of the Federal Ministry of Health, Dr. Sani Gwarzo, said they were screening passengers arriving from abroad while health officials were distributing information about how to identify Ebola symptoms.”
He said: “The arriving passengers are to be processed first by port health personnel who are expected to carry out necessary tests on every passenger with special devices that do not permit physical contact. Those found to be free of any signs or symptoms would proceed to the immigration area for other formalities,” Gwarzo said.
He charged aviation stakeholders to be abreast of dangers posed by the Ebola virus and how to prevent the spread of the virus in the airport.
“Port Health officials have sensitized workers from different agencies operating at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International, Abuja on the dangers posed by the Ebola virus and how to prevent the spread of the virus in the work place, home and the
community,” Gwarzo said.
He added that the awareness campaign was carried out to complement other measures already put in place by port health at the country’s international airports to prevent the presence and spread of the Ebola virus in Nigeria.
“A holding area has been provided at the tarmac for suspected cases while key cases are expected to be isolated in a designated area outside the airport for further examination and treatment,” he said.
In attendance at the awareness campaign were officials from airlines, Immigration, Customs, NDLEA, Nigeria Police, handling companies, FAAN and NCAA, among other agencies at the airport.

US Dept Of State Remarks At Atlantic Council

Linda Thomas-Greenfield
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairs
Washington, D.C.
July 31, 2014

Good morning. I am delighted to be here today and would especially like to thank Dr. Peter Pham for the invitation. This is a very exciting time for us. Next Monday, President Obama will welcome 51 Heads of State and Government and other senior leaders from across Africa to the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. The Summit, which will take place over three days, is the first such event of its kind and the largest event any U.S. President has ever held with African leaders.

It is an unprecedented opportunity to strengthen U.S. ties with Africa and highlight our commitment to addressing issues that affect us collectively.

We have two main objectives: 1) We want African leaders, and African citizens, to come away with the clear message that the United States cares about their continent and is committed to an enduring, multifaceted partnership. 2) We also want to see the Summit lead to increased American investment on the continent and to more direct linkages between U.S. and African companies.

Overview of Summit
As you likely have heard, this will not be your typical Summit. At the explicit direction of the President, it is designed to be interactive and conversational. We have been working closely for months to set the agenda with our partners including African governments, Washington-based Ambassadors, private sector leaders, interagency stakeholders, and representatives of civil society for the Summit. This participatory format reflects the multilayered, long-term partnership that characterizes the U.S. relationship with Africa.

Perhaps as an even bigger demonstration of the depth and diversity of U.S. interest in Africa, we are currently tracking an incredible number of side events – more than 80 at last count – hosted by businesses, nongovernmental organizations, diaspora groups, and think tanks. This participation very clearly shows that it is not just the U.S. Government that cares about Africa, but also the American people. I know that many of you in the room today are playing major roles in these events, and I want to personally thank you for the time and energy you have invested in helping us make the Summit a success.

Some critics suggest that a regional Summit like this minimizes the importance of bilateral relationships. But I disagree. Bilateral ties are the bedrock of U.S. foreign policy. We have more Embassies in African capitals than any other country in the world. Our Ambassadors and their teams engage with our counterparts on a daily basis. This is precisely why Secretary Kerry urged the Senate to confirm our remaining Ambassadorial nominees – and why it is so crucial that they do so quickly – so that they can be in place to nurture these critical relationships.

That said, in today’s world many of our highest priorities are regional and global in scope. Transnational threats like violent extremism, climate change, health threats, trafficking of arms, narcotics, people and wildlife, economic insecurity, to name a few, have no regard for national borders and are too big for any one nation to resolve. So, just as we work bilaterally with African countries, we also work with them in regional and multilateral fora. It is why the United States is so deeply engaged with the African Union and why the Chairperson of the AU and several other senior officials will be here next week for the Summit.

We know the United States is not the only country looking to partner with African nations on a regional or bilateral basis. The suggestion that the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit is a reaction to some other event or some other country’s activities in Africa overlooks our five solid decades of collaboration and cooperation. Ambassador Rice stated clearly yesterday, the United States “does not see Africa as a pipeline to extract vital resources nor a funnel for charity.” We are not threatened by the presence of other nations in Africa. Rather, we encourage our African partners to determine what relationships, whether transactional or enduring, will most benefit the lives of their people.

Business/Economic Components
As I said, we hope to see increased U.S. investment as one of the Summit’s key outcomes. When we talk about the fact that most of the world’s fastest growing economies are in sub-Saharan Africa, we’re also seeing a burgeoning middle class of African consumers and an expanding market for U.S. direct investment. This means enormous growth opportunities for American business and new jobs for Africans and Americans.

Since 2000, the African Growth and Opportunity Act has played a fundamental role in our efforts to build sustainable inclusive economic growth in Africa and promote opportunities for U.S. companies.

President Obama has made it clear that his Administration will seek a seamless renewal of AGOA, and we have been working closely with our colleagues on the Hill in pursuit of that goal. It is up to Congress to decide when and for how long AGOA will be extended. What is important is that this has support on both sides of the aisle. We are looking forward to the AGOA Ministerial on Monday as a chance to celebrate AGOA’s successes and to reflect on ways to modernize and strengthen the program.

Later on Monday, small-group dinners for American CEOs, African Heads of State and Governments will be held all across the city. These dinners were arranged to give these individuals a chance to discuss what is needed on both sides to move our economic cooperation forward.

The following day, the Commerce Department and Bloomberg Philanthropies will co-host the U.S.-Africa Business Forum at the Mandarin Oriental. There will be approximately 300 participants from U.S. and African business leaders, African Heads of State and Ministers, U.S. Government agencies, and Members of Congress.

Representatives will attend from many sectors including power and energy, infrastructure, finance and capital investment, information communication technologies, consumer goods, and agriculture. Again, participation is limited to allow for more direct engagement.

Leaders Sessions
As Ambassador Rice mentioned yesterday, “We’ve deliberately focused the summit beyond the crises of the moment to envision the future we want and how we can work together to achieve critical goals—10 and 15 years from now.” On Wednesday, President Obama will host three Leaders Sessions at the State Department.

The first session, Investing in Africa’s Future, will be both an opening plenary and a discussion of inclusive, sustainable development and economic growth. I expect the discussion to draw from conversations that took place during the preceding two days at the AGOA Ministerial, the Business Forum, and the Power Africa event hosted by the Corporate Council on Africa.

A word about Power Africa, the initiative President Obama launched last summer to increase electricity generation capacity in sub-Saharan Africa by 10,000 megawatts. Beginning in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, and Tanzania, Power Africa represents a new model for development, leveraging private sector investment to meet generation and access goals.

Twelve U.S. Government agencies and other public and private sector partners are deploying development assistance, financing, investment, and diplomatic tools to accelerate dozens of energy transactions. Over the next five years, the United States will commit more than $7 billion in financial support, so that we can attract more private investment in Africa’s energy sector. So this is not about overnight solutions or one-off deals, but instead about long-term collaborative efforts.

Peace and Regional Stability is the theme of the second session. This session will focus on shared concerns and potential new ways to work together to find long-term solutions to regional security and peacekeeping challenges. Many African countries are facing significant threats from violent groups exploiting socio-economic challenges, as well as local grievances, ethnic group tensions, weak institutions, and porous borders. The United States supports African efforts to improve security at the sub-regional, national, and continental levels, with the clear understanding that our partners are in the lead. So, we work in cooperation with them in the African Union and across their security sector – with their police, other law enforcement agencies, justice systems, and armed forces.

How are we cooperating? To give just a few examples: since 2005 we have trained over a quarter of a million African peacekeepers in 25 countries through our Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance Program, or ACOTA. We are working to counter extremism in the Sahel region through the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership in the west, and the Partnership for Regional East Africa Counterterrorism in the east.

We are supporting the African Union-led missions in Somalia, and we supported the African Union-led Missions in Mali and the Central African Republic before they transitioned to a blue-helmeted UN operation. In these instances we are not imposing American solutions, but rather, helping build resilience, capacity, and partnerships that address instability’s complex root causes and not just its most troubling manifestations.

Wednesday’s last conversation will concern Governing for the Next Generation. This discussion will allow us to highlight areas where African governments are registering progress. It will also provide an opportunity for a candid exchange about how we might deepen our partnership to tackle obstacles to development and the full achievement of fundamental rights. The discussion will focus on strengthening public institutions, civil society, rule of law, and opportunities for youth while tackling the billions in lost revenue due to illicit finance and corruption.

Signature Events
These are not the only topics that will be addressed in the Summit’s official agenda. The U.S. Government will host six official side events, called “Signature Events,” that will bring together certain U.S. and African government Leaders and officials, members of African and U.S. private sector, the diaspora, and others. These Signature Events are designed to deepen awareness of some of the critical issues facing the continent and to foster collaboration on ways we might work together to resolve them.

The Signature Events are:
o Honoring the Contributions of the Faith Community
o The Civil Society Forum
o Investing in Women for Peace and Prosperity
o Investing in Health
o Resilience and Food Security in a Changing Climate
o Combating Wildlife Trafficking
Unfortunately we don’t have time here to detail each of these events, but I did want to tell you a little bit about the Civil Society Forum. On Monday morning, 600 representatives of governments, civil society, diaspora groups, the private sector and the philanthropic community will gather for a series of sessions and a Town hall hosted by Secretary Kerry. The event will demonstrate the importance of leveraging the knowledge, experience and resources of citizens and civil society and safeguarding civic space.

Youth Engagement
Before I conclude, a few words on the subject of youth engagement. This past week, 500 of Africa’s most inspiring young leaders from across the African continent gathered here in Washington. They are the first cohort of the newly renamed Mandela Washington Fellowship of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), President Obama’s signature initiative for engaging with youth in Africa.

In the past generation, Africa has experienced remarkable change. Now we must think about the change we hope to see for the next generation.

If the continent is to realize its potential for economic growth, African youth must be engaged. If it fails and this growth is not achieved, the continent will have the largest unemployed youth population on earth. Millions of youth will not be invested in the future of their nations or communities. Millions will live with the potential of being attracted to extremist ideologies or criminal activity because no positive alternatives seem accessible.

This is what YALI, the Mandela Washington Fellowship, and the Summit’s overarching theme of “Investing in the Next Generation” is about for us. Africa, just like the United States, needs dedicated young people to become leaders in all aspects of their societies – in schools, in business, in civil society. This is why President Obama invited his African counterparts to discuss their plans for youth engagement, to share best practices and help others build on successful models. As the President said on Monday morning in his YALI Town Hall,

o “Even as we deal with crises and challenges in other parts of the world that often dominate our headlines, even as we acknowledge the real hardships that so many Africans face every day, we have to make sure that we’re seizing the extraordinary potential of today’s Africa, which is the youngest and fastest-growing of the continents.”

In conclusion, let me stress that we see the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit as a reaffirmation of the United States’ ongoing commitment to Africa. We look forward to the energizing effect this Summit will have on our bilateral and regional relationships across the continent and on our investment and business ties. A decade from now or even five years from now, I am certain we will look back on this Summit as having deepened the partnership between the American and African peoples as we pursue a better future for us all.

Thank you. I would be happy to take a few questions.

West Africa Ebola Outbreak Tops 700 Deaths

Social Commentator Alfred Sirleaf, gives comment on current events in Liberia including the deadly Ebola virus by speaking and writhing them down on a blackboard in Monrovia, Liberia, Thursday, July 31, 2014. The worst recorded Ebola outbreak in history surpassed 700 deaths in West Africa as the World Health Organization on Thursday announced dozens of new fatalities.

FREETOWN, SIERRA LEONE (ASSOCIATED PRESS) — The death toll from the worst recorded Ebola outbreak in history surpassed 700 in West Africa as security forces went house-to-house in Sierra Leone's capital Thursday looking for patients and others exposed to the disease.
Fears grew as the United States warned against travel to the three infected countries — Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia — and Sierra Leone's soccer team was blocked from boarding a plane in Nairobi, Kenya, that was to take them to the Seychelles for a game on Saturday. Airport authorities in Kenya said Seychelles immigration told them to prevent the team from traveling.
Almost half of the 57 new deaths reported by the World Health Organization occurred in Liberia, where two Americans, Dr. Kent Brantly of Texas and Nancy Writebol, a North Carolina-based missionary, are also sick with Ebola.
At the White House, press secretary Josh Earnest said the U.S. is looking into options to bring them back to the U.S. Officials at Atlanta's Emory University Hospital said they expected one of the Americans to be transferred there "within the next several days." The hospital declined to identify which aid worker, citing privacy laws.
Writebol is in stable but serious condition and is receiving an experimental treatment that doctors hope will better address her condition, according to a statement released by SIM, a Christian missions organization. Her husband, David, is close by but can only visit his wife through a window or dressed in a haz-mat suit, the statement said.
"There was only enough (of the experimental serum) for one person. Dr. Brantly asked that it be given to Nancy Writebol," said Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan's Purse, another aid organization that has been working in Liberia during the Ebola crisis.
Brantly, who works for the aid group, did receive a unit of blood from a 14-year-old boy who had survived Ebola because of the doctor's care, Graham said in a statement. "The young boy and his family wanted to be able to help the doctor who saved his life," he said.
Giving a survivor's blood to a patient might be aimed at seeing whether any antibodies the survivor made to the virus could help someone else fight off the infection. This approach has been tried in previous Ebola outbreaks with mixed results.
No further details were provided on the experimental treatment. There is currently no licensed drug or vaccine for Ebola, and patients can only be given supportive care to keep them hydrated. There are a handful of experimental drug and vaccine candidates for Ebola and while some have had promising results in animals including monkeys, none has been rigorously tested in humans.
The disease has continued to spread through bodily fluids as sick people remain out in the community and cared for by relatives without protective gear. People have become ill from touching sick family members and in some cases from soiled linens.
In Sierra Leone, which borders Liberia to the northwest, authorities are vowing to quarantine all those at home who have refused to go to isolation centers. Many families have kept relatives at home to pray for their survival instead of bringing them to clinics that have had a 60 percent fatality rate. Those in the throngs of death can bleed from their eyes, mouth and ears.
Rosa Crestani, Ebola emergency coordinator for Doctors Without Borders, also known as Medecins Sans Frontieres, said it is "crucial" at this point to gain the trust of communities that have been afraid to let health workers in and to deploy more medical staff.
"The declaration of a state of emergency in Sierra Leone shows a recognition of the gravity of the situation, but we do not yet know what this will mean on the ground. What we can say is that it will be difficult to implement due to the fact that the cases are dispersed over such a large area, and that we currently do not have a clear picture of where all the hotspots are," she said.
Liberia's president on Wednesday also instituted new measures aimed at halting the spread of Ebola, including shutting down schools and ordering most public servants to stay home from work. "It could be helpful for the government to have powers to isolate and quarantine people and it's certainly better than what's been done so far," said Dr. Heinz Feldmann, chief of virology at U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. "Whether it works, we will have to wait and see."
Dr. Unni Krishnan, head of disaster preparedness and response for the aid group Plan International, said closing schools could help as they bring large numbers of children together, which can amplify infection rates.
"Door-to-door searches are not going to be easy," he said. "What will help is encouraging people to come forward when they see symptoms and seek medical help." The U.S. Peace Corps also was evacuating hundreds of its volunteers in the affected countries. Two Peace Corps workers are under isolation outside the U.S. after having contact with a person who later died from the Ebola virus, a State Department official said.
In Moberly, Missouri, Liz Sosniecki said she got a call from her 25-year-old son, Dane, a Peace Corps volunteer in Liberia. He had not been exposed to Ebola and expressed disappointment about leaving just six weeks after he arrived.
"He said, 'I'm coming home.' Sorry," she said, beginning to cry. "I'm a little emotional. It's a relief." The last time the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued such a travel warning during a disease outbreak was in 2003 because of SARS in Asia.
Ebola now has been blamed for 729 deaths in four West African countries this year: 339 in Guinea, 233 in Sierra Leone, 156 in Liberia and one in Nigeria. The World Health Organization is launching a $100 million response plan calling for the deployment of several hundred additional health workers to help the strained resources in deeply impoverished West Africa, where hospital and clinics are ill-equipped to cope with routine health threats let alone the outbreak of a virulent disease like Ebola.
Among the deaths announced this week was that of the chief doctor treating Ebola in Sierra Leone, who was buried Thursday. The government said Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan's death was "an irreparable loss of this son of the soil." The 39-year-old was a leading doctor on hemorrhagic fevers in a nation with very few medical resources.
The Ebola cases first emerged in Guinea back in March, and later spread across the borders to Liberia and Sierra Leone. Outbreaks of the virus in previous years had occurred in other parts of Africa. The current outbreak is now the largest recorded in world history, and has infected three African capitals with international airports. Officials are trying to step up screening of passengers, though an American man was able to fly from Liberia to Nigeria, where authorities say he died days later from Ebola.
Experts say the risk of travelers contracting it is considered low because it requires direct contact with bodily fluids or secretions such as urine, blood, sweat or saliva. Ebola can't be spread like flu through casual contact or breathing in the same air.
Patients are contagious only once the disease has progressed to the point they show symptoms, according to the World Health Organization. The most vulnerable are health care workers and relatives who come in much closer contact with the sick.
In Liberia, authorities say 28 out of the 45 health workers who have contracted the disease so far have died.
Larson reported from Dakar, Senegal. Associated Press correspondents Maria Cheng in London, Jonathan Paye-Layleh in Monrovia, Liberia and Carla K. Johnson in Chicago contributed to this report.

US, UN Announce Deal On 72-Hour Gaza Cease-Fire

Map locates recent Israeli attacks and airstrikes within the Gaza strip ; 2c x 3 1/2 inches; 96.3 mm x 88 mm;

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel and Hamas have agreed to a 72-hour humanitarian cease-fire beginning Friday, during which time there will be negotiations on a more durable truce in the 24-day-old Gaza war, the United States and United Nations announced Thursday.
The announcement came hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to destroy Hamas' tunnel network with or without a cease-fire" as the Palestinian death toll soared past 1,400. There was no immediate Israeli comment on the announcement.
In a statement released in New Delhi where Secretary of State John Kerry is traveling, the U.S. and U.N. said they had gotten assurances that all parties to the conflict had agreed to an unconditional cease-fire.
"This humanitarian cease-fire will commence at 8 a.m. local time on Friday, Aug. 1, 2014. It will last for a period of 72 hours unless extended. During this time the forces on the ground will remain in place," the statement said.
"We urge all parties to act with restraint until this humanitarian cease-fire begins, and to fully abide by their commitments during the cease-fire." The statement said the cease-fire was critical to give civilians a much-needed reprieve from violence. During this period, civilians in Gaza will receive humanitarian relief and have time to bury the dead, take care of the injured and restock food supplies. The time also will be used to repair water and energy infrastructure.
Earlier, the Israeli military said it was calling up an additional 16,000 reserve soldiers to pursue its campaign against the Islamic militants. At least 1,441 Palestinians have been killed, three-quarters of them civilians, since hostilities began on July 8, according to Gaza health officials — surpassing the at least 1,410 Palestinians killed in 2009, according to Palestinian rights groups.
Israel says 56 soldiers, two Israeli civilians and a Thai agricultural worker have died — also far more than the 13 Israeli deaths in the previous campaign. In Geneva, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay accused both Israel and Hamas militants of violating the rules of war.
She said Hamas is violating international humanitarian law by "locating rockets within schools and hospitals, or even launching these rockets from densely populated areas." But she added that this did not absolve Israel from disregarding the same law.
The Israeli government, she said, has defied international law by attacking civilian areas of Gaza such as schools, hospitals, homes and U.N. facilities. "None of this appears to me to be accidental," Pillay said. "They appear to be defying — deliberate defiance of — obligations that international law imposes on Israel."
Pillay also took aim at the U.S., Israel's main ally, for providing financial support for Israel's "Iron Dome" anti-rocket defense system. "No such protection has been provided to Gazans against the shelling," she said.
The Iron Dome system has been credited with saving countless lives as Hamas militants fired nearly 3,000 rockets at Israel. At the United Nations, Israel's Ambassador Ron Prosor responded to criticism of his country, saying: "I think the international community should be very vocal in standing with Israel fighting terrorism today because if not, you will see it on your doorstep tomorrow."
Israel expanded what started as an aerial campaign against Hamas and widened it into a ground offensive on July 17. Since then, Israel says the campaign has concentrated on destroying cross-border tunnels militants constructed to carry out attacks inside Israeli territory and ending rocket attacks on its cities.
Israel says most of the 32 tunnels it uncovered have now been demolished and that getting rid of the remainder will take no more than a few days. "We have neutralized dozens of terror tunnels and we are committed to complete this mission, with or without a cease-fire," Netanyahu said Thursday in televised remarks. "Therefore, I will not agree to any offer that does not allow the military to complete this important mission for the security of the people of Israel."
For Israel, the tunnel network is a strategic threat. It says the tunnels are meant to facilitate mass attacks on civilians and soldiers inside Israel, as well as kidnappings, a tactic that Hamas has used in the past. Palestinian militants trying to sneak into Israel through the tunnels have been found with sedatives and handcuffs, an indication they were planning abductions, the military says.
Several soldiers have been killed in the current round of fighting by Palestinian gunmen who popped out of underground tunnels near Israeli communities along the Gaza border. Israeli defense officials said the purpose of the latest call-up of 16,000 reserves was to provide relief for troops currently on the Gaza firing line, and amounted to a rotation that left the overall number of mobilized reservists at around 70,000. They spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
However, Israeli officials have also said they do not rule out broadening operations in the coming days. Palestinians have fired more than 2,850 rockets at Israel — some reaching major cities but most intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system. On Thursday alone, more than 100 rockets were fired toward Israeli cities, the army said.
One Israeli was seriously wounded when a rocket exploded in a residential area of Kiryat Gat in southern Israel, the military said. The rocket damaged a house and destroyed several cars parked on the street. Another rocket was intercepted over Tel Aviv by Israel's rocket defense system, the army said.
Israeli attacks continued Thursday, killing at least 56 Palestinians, according to Gaza health officials. Gazans said munitions struck the Omar Ibn al-Khatab mosque next to a U.N. school in the northern town of Beit Lahiya. The office of the military spokesman said Palestinian snipers inside the mosque had shot at troops, wounding one Israeli soldier and prompting retaliatory fire.
The strike in Beit Lahiya damaged water tanks on the roof of a building near the mosque, sending shrapnel flying into the adjacent school compound, where dozens of Palestinians displaced by the fighting had taken shelter.
"The shrapnel from the strike on the mosque hit people who were in the street and at the entrance of the school," said Sami Salebi, an area resident. Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra said at least 15 people were wounded in the strike, including three who were in critical condition.
Among them was Kifah Rafati, who was being treated for shrapnel injuries at the nearby Kamal Adwan Hospital. She said she and her six children had been sleeping in a classroom inside the U.N. school when the explosion went off.
"There is no safety anywhere," the 40-year-old Rafati said. Hamas has said it will only halt fire once it receives guarantees that a Gaza border blockade by Israel and Egypt — tightened after the Islamic militant group violently seized power in Gaza in 2007 — will be lifted.
Israel says it wants to decimate Hamas' rocket-launching capability, diminish its weapons arsenal and demolish the tunnels. It has launched more than 4,000 strikes against Hamas-linked targets, including rocket launchers and mosques where it says weapons were being stored.
More than a quarter of a million Palestinians in Gaza— over 236,000_are seeking shelter in 86 UNRWA installations, according to UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness. Israel says it is trying hard to avoid civilian casualties and blames Hamas for using civilians as "human shields." Israel has issued warnings before attacks through phone calls and text messages to residents among other methods.
Barzak reported from Gaza City, Gaza Strip. Associated Press writers Lara Jakes in New Delhi and Peter Enav and Yousur Alhlou in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

The House Of Bush Father And Son Book Deal

Former Presidents George H. W. Bush, right, and George W. Bush before the Houston Texans NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers in Houston. George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush are cooperating with a historian for a joint biography about the former presidents. “Presidents Bush: A Portrait of a Father and Son,” by Mark K. Updegrove, has been acquired by Henry Holt and Company. The book is scheduled for Spring 2016. Image: AP

Peace Corps Evacuates Over Ebola As 2 Isolated

AP Graphic provides background on the Ebola outbreak in West Africa; 3c x 4 inches; 146 mm x 101 mm;

MONROVIA, LIBERIA (AP) — The largest recorded Ebola outbreak in history has led the U.S. Peace Corps to evacuate hundreds of volunteers from three affected West African countries, and a State Department official on Wednesday said two volunteers were under isolation after having contact with a person who later died of the virus.
Meanwhile, Liberia's president ordered the nation's schools to shut down and most civil servants to stay home as fears deepened over the virus that already has killed more than 670 people in West Africa.
The Peace Corps said it was evacuating 340 volunteers from Liberia as well as neighboring Guinea and Sierra Leone. The State Department official said the two volunteers were not symptomatic and were under observation. The official was not authorized to discuss the cases for attribution, and declined to say where the volunteers were serving or when they were exposed.
Ebola has no vaccine and no specific treatment, with a fatality rate of at least 60 percent. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who is skipping a summit of African leaders in Washington this week amid the crisis, also called for the closure of markets in an area near the borders with infected countries Guinea and Sierra Leone.
"My fellow Liberians, Ebola is real, Ebola is contagious and Ebola kills," she warned. "Denying that the disease exists is not doing your part, so keep yourselves and your loved ones safe." Fear and panic over the mounting death toll has prompted some rural communities to accuse foreign aid workers of bringing the deadly virus. Others have kept people with Ebola symptoms at home instead of bringing them to quarantine centers. In anger, one man recently set fire to part of the health ministry building in the Liberian capital, Monrovia, after his teenage brother reportedly died of Ebola.
Sirleaf said that security forces would enforce the new precautions taken a week after an American man of Liberian descent boarded a plane in Monrovia and flew to Nigeria, where authorities said he died of Ebola. The fact that he was able to board a plane and traveled through a major airport transit hub in Togo has heightened fears about Ebola's possible spread in the region.
The airline involved, ASKY, has suspended its flights to both the capitals of Liberia and Sierra Leone, and said passengers departing from Guinea would be carefully screened. Experts say the risk of travelers contracting Ebola is considered low because it requires direct contact with bodily fluids or secretions such as urine, blood, sweat or saliva. The virus can't be spread like flu through casual contact or breathing in the same air.
Patients are contagious only once the disease has progressed to the point they show symptoms, according to the World Health Organization. The most vulnerable are health care workers and relatives who come in much closer contact with the sick.
Still, Liberia is among the poorest countries in the world, and the outbreak already has taxed the capacity of local health clinics and doctors, prompting concern for those who remain in the country. Two U.S.-based missionary groups have ordered the evacuation of their non-essential personnel from Liberia after a doctor and a missionary both contracted Ebola.
SIM USA President Bruce Johnson announced Tuesday that his group and Samaritan's Purse decided on the evacuation following an upsurge in the number of Ebola cases in Liberia. A Texas-trained doctor and a missionary from North Carolina have contracted the disease and are in isolation in Liberia.Associated Press writers Krista Larson in Dakar, Senegal and Michelle Salcedo in Washington contributed to this report.

Sierra Leone Declares Health Emergency Amid Ebola

Medical personnel work at the Doctors Without Borders facility in Kailahun, Sierra Leone where Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan died. A leading doctor who risked his own life to treat dozens of Ebola patients died Tuesday, July 29, 2014, from the disease, officials said, as a major regional airline announced it was suspending flights to the cities hardest hit by an outbreak that has killed more than 670 people. Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan, who was praised as a national hero for treating the disease in Sierra Leone, was confirmed dead by health ministry officials there. He had been hospitalized in quarantine. Image: Youssouf Bah

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (AP) — The president of Sierra Leone declared a public health emergency as the Ebola crisis blamed for nearly 700 deaths deepened across West Africa, vowing to quarantine sick patients at home and conduct house-to-house searches for others who may have been exposed.
The announcement from President Ernest Bai Koroma late Wednesday came as neighboring Liberia also ramped up its efforts to slow the virulent disease's spread, shutting down schools and ordering most public servants to stay home from work.
The U.S. Peace Corps also was evacuating hundreds of its volunteers in the affected countries. Two Peace Corps workers are under isolation outside the U.S. after having contact with a person who later died of the Ebola virus, a State Department official said.
Ebola has been blamed for more than 670 deaths in four West African countries this year, and has shown no signs of slowing down particularly in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Among the dead was the chief doctor treating Ebola in Sierra Leone, who was to be buried Thursday.
The government said Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan's death was "an irreparable loss of this son of the soil." The 39-year-old was a leading doctor on hemorrhagic fevers in a nation with very few medical resources.
Ebola cases first emerged in the nation of Guinea back in March, and later spread across the borders to Liberia and Sierra Leone. The outbreak is now the largest recorded in world history, and has infected three African capitals with international airports. Officials are trying to step up screening of passengers, though an American man was able to fly from Liberia to Nigeria, where authorities say he died days later from Ebola.
Ebola has no vaccine and no specific treatment, with a fatality rate of about 60 percent. But experts say the risk of travelers contracting it is considered low because it requires direct contact with bodily fluids or secretions such as urine, blood, sweat or saliva. Ebola can't be spread like flu through casual contact or breathing in the same air.
Patients are contagious only once the disease has progressed to the point they show symptoms, according to the World Health Organization. The most vulnerable are health care workers and relatives who come in much closer contact with the sick.
Associated Press writers Krista Larson in Dakar, Senegal; and Jonathan Paye-Layleh in Monrovia, Liberia contributed to this report.

Nigeria Opens Long-Awaited Battle Of Ideas Against Boko Haram

(A teacher at Maska Road Islamic School teaches Hadith excerpts in a classroom in Kaduna, July 16, 2014. REUTERS/Joe Penney)

* Government to launch programme combating Boko Haram ideology
* Northern schools juggle Islam with secular "Western" education
* Muslims preaching tolerance targeted by Boko Haram
* Programme to target school pupils, prisoners
KADUNA, Nigeria, July 30 (Reuters) - In classrooms facing a sandy courtyard in the northern Nigerian city of Kaduna, Maska Road Islamic School teaches a creed that condemns the violent ideology of groups like Boko Haram.
Not everyone has got its message. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, known as the "Pants Bomber", spent his youth in this school - and ended up trying unsuccessfully to blow up a U.S. airliner on Christmas Day 2009 with explosives hidden in his underwear.
But the school is steadfast in preaching tolerance to its pupils, and the government is about to adopt this message in a new strategy for containing Boko Haram, which has killed thousands in a five-year campaign for an Islamic state.
"We teach them that what they (Boko Haram) are doing is a total misunderstanding of the Islamic religion, that Prophet Mohammed was compassionate, he even lived together with the non-Muslims in Medina," said headmaster Sulaiman Saiki.
"We teach them tolerance," he told Reuters as girls in the next room softly recited Koranic verses in Arabic melodies.
Abdulmutallab was radicalised in an al Qaeda camp in Yemen, but his case shows that even youths given a relatively liberal Muslim education can be seduced by radical Islam. This is something the new government programme is aiming to combat.
Koranic schools like Maska Road will be a pillar of the strategy being launched in September to counter Boko Haram's ideology. The aim is to win over the "hearts and minds" of young Nigerians.
They will also challenge Boko Haram's claim that secular teaching is "un-Islamic" - Boko Haram means "Western education is sinful" in Hausa, the dominant language in Nigeria's mainly Muslim north.
Maska Road teaches only Koranic verses and other tenets of Muslim faith, and encourages its 300 students to take classes such as science and literature outside its walls.
"We want them to get a Western education and combine it with ... religious learning," Saiki says. Classes are held between 4 and 6 p.m., after secular schools shut.
Fatah Abdul, who studies at Maska Road, scoffs at the idea of violence in the name of Islam.
"Our religion doesn't entertain killing. Boko Haram is absolutely different from what our religion advocates," she said. "And it's not true what they say that we need an Islamic state. The leadership doesn't have to be Islamic".
Saiki was a neighbour of Abdulmutallab when the future Pants Bomber was at school. He says Abdulmutallab didn't learn to hate the West there but "was deceived afterwards".
Abdulmutallab, a loner from a well-to-do northern family, showed how easily youths can be radicalised. Add poverty into the mix, as in Nigeria's troubled northeastern Borno state, and it's not hard to see how Boko Haram finds young recruits.
Boko Haram is suspected of being behind suicide bombings that killed 82 people in Kaduna last week, including one against a Muslim cleric about to lead a public prayer.
Kaduna, the capital of the north in colonial times, is richer than anywhere in the northeastern region where Boko Haram is based. But it shares many of its problems such as high youth unemployment, attested by the many children begging and hawking phone credit on its rubbish-filled streets.
President Goodluck Jonathan's administration has been pilloried for its apparent powerlessness to crush the rebels or protect civilians, including more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped in April and who remain in captivity. But he has also faced censure for neglecting the insurgency's underlying causes.
So when Jonathan's National Security Adviser (NSA) Sambo Dasuki announced a new "soft approach to terrorism" in March, many instantly dismissed it as lacking in substance.
But officials in the office of the NSA say imams in mosques and traditional elders will be co-opted to preach tolerance, while measures will be taken to ensure Koranic schools teach "correct" interpretations of sacred texts.
The drive will also include educational programmes, especially increased sports and music in northern schools, plus reform programmes for convicted Boko Haram detainees.
"A lot them don't have much Islamic knowledge, so they tend to believe what the mullahs say," Fatima Akilu, director of behavioural analysis in the office of the NSA told Reuters. "We want to teach what the Koran actually says in a language they understand."
A parallel economic programme, also funded by the NSA's budget, will address the chronic poverty seen as a major driver of the insurgency.
It may be too late to bring back hundreds of youths already fighting for Boko Haram, but the idea is to prevent more from joining.
Northern Nigeria has much lower levels of education than the south, a legacy of British colonialism, which protected the caliphates of the north from the activity of Christian missionaries who set up many schools in the south.
"The aspects of education Boko Haram don't like are the ones that allow you to think," Akilu said. "Keep people in the dark and you can control them with a singular narrative."
Undoing this partly involves showing how "Western" ideas, such as mathematics and some physics and astronomy, are rooted in mediaeval Islamic thought, which was making strides while Christians in Europe were busy burning witches.
At the Sultan Bello mosque in Kaduna's busy downtown market area, local imam Ahmed Gumi takes an unusual step to illustrate his openness to the non-Islamic world: he invites four Reuters journalists in to see, film and photograph his sermon.
Three are non-Muslim, including two Westerners. He introduces the team to his congregation of about 350 packed into a main hall, and after a chorus of "welcome" he offers a live interview about his views on Boko Haram in front of the faithful.
"It's not right to call what those boys are doing Islamic," he later told Reuters privately. "They hide behind Islam."
Gumi, one of northern Nigeria's most popular clerics, sees the idea of an Islamic state dear to extremists as a throwback.
"They want to bring back the golden age of Islamic triumph in this modern time." he says. "For a state to survive you need a strong civilisation, education, money, lawyers, doctors. You don't create a civilisation with AK-47s in the bush."
He knows his outspoken views carry a risk he'll be targeted by Boko Haram. His mosque, a towering structure spread between four sand-coloured turrets with turquoise-green domes, is guarded by scores of unarmed volunteers checking cars and bags.
Boko Haram fighters have killed dozens of clerics. One of the targets of the Kaduna bombs was a Sheikh Dahiru Bauchi, an imam whose mystical Sufism is a far cry from the austere al Qaeda-style type of Islam. Bauchi survived.
Though a government critic, Gumi approves of the soft approach, "but it needs local Borno (leaders) more than people like us who are already openly opposed to them".
Taking issue with Boko Haram's ideology will work only if the government can draw disaffected youths away from the AK-47. The NSA's economic programme aims to do this, starting with 2 billion naira ($12.3 million), but with a further 60 billion that can be made available from other agencies for projects, said Soji Adelaja, NSA special adviser on economic intelligence.
They include mobile medical trucks, cash for the orphans and widows of Boko Haram's victims, and a programme employing 150,000 youths to fix roads and rebuild police stations.
Parts of Nigeria that are completely besieged by the insurgents are off-limits, but there are other vulnerable areas where the programme can be rolled out, Adelaja says. "We are deploying in areas that are safe, and where the community has some resilience against Boko Haram."
The death of Boko Haram's founder Mohammed Yusuf in police custody transformed what had been a clerical movement into an armed rebellion in 2009. Akilu says Yusuf disliked "Western" science which he saw as contradicting the Koran, especially evolutionary theory, the fact that the world is round and the process of evaporation, because "rain is a gift from God".
Getting schools to show how science and religion can co-exist, she says, is essential to combating such ideas.
Down a dirt track with crater-like potholes on the outskirts of Kaduna lies the iron-roofed Focus 1,2,3 International School. Twelve classrooms packed with desks take 25 children each.
Secular education is between 7.30 a.m. and midday. After lunch, Islamic schooling is between 1 p.m. and 5.30 p.m.
Muhammad Saleh, who runs the school, believes strongly in science, although he has doubts about evolutionary theory - as do many conservative Christians in the West.

Even so, his school teaches it. "I teach them evolution myself, and the parents never complain," he told Reuters. "It's education. Once children have an education they can decide for themselves what to think." ($1 = 161.95 naira) (Additional reporting by Garba Muhammed in Kaduna; editing by David Stamp)